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(Credit: Focus Films)

Film

How Akira Kurosawa and Francis Ford Coppola inspired 'Lost in Translation'

Sofia Coppola’s cinema has polarised audiences, with many criticising her position in the industry by calling it a direct result of nepotism while others have celebrated her vision in some of her more accomplished works. The latter category certainly includes her 2003 drama Lost in Translation, a film that drew inspiration from many great sources like the director’s father Francis Ford Coppola as well as the Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa.

Based on Sofia Coppola’s own experiences in Tokyo, Lost in Translation stars Bill Murray as an ageing movie star who lands a gig in Tokyo where he has to appear in an advertisement for Suntory whisky. During his time there, he reflects on his identity, the relationships in his life and his fundamental isolation through a new connection he forms with an equally lonely young college graduate (played by Scarlett Johansson).

“I spent a lot of time in Tokyo in my twenties and I really wanted to make a film around my experience of just being there,” Coppola revealed. “That was the starting point. I got married not long before and kind of felt isolated. I was in this stage where I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choices or what I was doing in the post-college beginning of my adult life.” Due to her extremely personal connection with the material, Lost in Translation feels like an intimate confession instead of a mechanical project.

While writing the script for Lost in Translation, Coppola was influenced by a wide variety of people and films. She already had a considerably hefty knowledge of film history as she had been born and brought in the world of cinema but she managed to focus her artistic influences for her project, citing the likes of a particular scene from David Lean’s 1945 gem A Brief Encounter which helped her on her own journey.

However, the most blatant source of inspiration was actually the advertisements that Francis Ford Coppola had done in Japan alongside none other than Akira Kurosawa. While preparing to release Apocalypse Now, Coppola heard of Kurosawa’s lamentable financial condition after the commercial failure of his last two projects – Dodeskaden and Dersu Uzala – Kurosawa was struggling to raise funds and Coppola decided to help him out.

In addition to George Lucas and Coppola’s offer to fund Kurosawa’s next project, the latter also flew to Japan and starred in an advertisement for Suntory whisky with Kurosawa. The Japanese master would soon recover from his slow run by making one of his greatest projects ever – the visually stunning Shakespearean opus Ran.

Watch the advertisements starring Francis Ford Coppola and Akira Kurosawa below.